How to Buy Cantilever Racks

Cantilever racks are one of the most common warehouse storage systems available and one of the most flexible. You may be aware that they’re an ideal system for organizing your warehouse space, but it can be challenging to decide how many you want, which types are most suitable, or how to configure them.

Learn about the different kinds of cantilever racking systems, how to choose the suitable types and configurations, and how to buy the sets best adapted to your warehousing needs.

Primary Applications of Cantilever Racks

A cantilever racking system is an open-ended shelf made of structural steel, possessing a certain number of arms. The primary purpose of a cantilever rack is the safe storage of long and bulky objects.

Depending on your load and capacity requirements, cantilever racks may be used either indoors or outdoors, in a single or double-sided configuration, and with either straight arms or hooked arms.

How to Configure Your Cantilever Racks

If you’re unfamiliar with cantilever racks, it’s important to learn about their different components and how to set them up properly.


A cantilever storage rack comprises of four parts:

  • Cantilever uprights: The uprights are the vertical structural steel beams supporting the arms.
  • Cantilever arms: The racking arms are the component on which you can store the load. Multiple types of arms are available, and all are configurable at multiple angles for safe storage of various loads.
  • Cantilever base: The bases are horizontal structural beams on which the uprights rest, giving stability to the entire structure.
  • Brace sets: The braces are connecting pieces of heavy-duty structural steel designed to add strength and rigidity to the uprights. Patterns are either horizontal braces or X-shaped, depending on the required strength and the expected maximum loads.

Racking layouts

There are two layouts for a cantilever rack: single-sided and double-sided. Depending on your warehouse’s layout and floor plan, you may need to use both formats. Single-sided cantilevers are best used against walls, while double-sided cantilevers are best used in the middle, forming aisles.

Load types

Although similar in appearance, the primary difference between cantilever racks and selective pallet racks is the types of suitable loads they accommodate.

Where selective pallet racks are best suited for palletized loads and other, relatively square, objects (boxes, crates, Gaylord containers, etc.), cantilever racks are primarily intended for long and bulky loads, including but not limited to:

  • Steel beams
  • Bar stock
  • Lumber, timber, boards
  • Pipes and tubing (stainless steel should always be stored indoors)
  • Large non-stackable objects, such as furniture like sofas

In addition, the open-ended nature of cantilever racks makes them preferable to pallet racks for storing large boxes and components, particularly in warehouses where forklift access from multiple angles is desirable.

You can also use specific arm types for additional safety with certain load types:

  • Straight arms: The standard cantilever rack arm type, suitable for long, square loads. Many different arm lengths exist, making them ideal for all kinds of applications.
  • Hooked or lipped arms: Suitable for storage of long, circular loads (e.g., lumber, pipes, tubes), as it prevents the bottom layer from rolling off the cantilever and falling on the floor.
  • Rack decks: Decks are suitable for storing boxes, crates, palletized loads, and large non-stackables. They resemble open-ended pallet racks and are one of the most versatile arm types.
  • Inclined arms: Typically available with inclines ranging from 4° to 20°, these arms are best suited for irregularly-shaped loads and may feature hooks, lips, or end-stops.

Cantilever Racks

Arm Capacities

In all material handling and storage applications, including cantilever racks, you may find that arms are classified by capacity or duty level. There are three major types: structural, roll-formed, and hybrid.


Structural cantilever racks employ standard gauge steel (12 to 14 gauge). They are the standard for all heavy-duty applications, with a beam capacity of 3,200 to 12,000 lbs. and a total upright capacity of 35,000 to 50,000 lbs.

Not only do they handle the heaviest loads with ease, but they can also endure more abuse than other types. Forklift impacts are among the most common accidents in fast-paced warehouse environments, creating an incentive to use the most robust racking systems possible to minimize damage.

They can also be easily washed and cleaned to avoid contamination, making them ideal for food handling or cold storage such as pharmaceuticals.


Roll-formed cantilever racks are made of light gauge steel (10 to 11 gauge) and may feature fewer bolts than structural racks or even possess a boltless design.

Roll-formed racks are primarily used in light to medium-duty applications, with a maximum load capacity of 3,100 to 9,000 lbs. per arm pair.

Roll-formed racks are lightweight and easy to reconfigure but do not endure damages as well as structural racks. This rack type is used most frequently in retail and any facility with seasonal changes.


A hybrid cantilever rack combines the frame of a structural racking system with the beams of a roll-formed system, creating a middle-ground between medium- and heavy-duty applications.

How to Determine the Correct Rack Dimensions

Using a suitable racking configuration is not just critical for the safe storage of your loads; it also impacts your warehouse’s overall flow and efficiency.

An efficient configuration reduces the risk of injuries, helps to locate stored items more efficiently, and improves loading and unloading speeds. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your cantilever racks.

To determine the correct arm dimensions (length, height, maximum capacity), your load must:

  • Occupy no more than the maximum length of each arm, without overhang. There is some room for error, but excessive overhang may bend or deflect your arms.
  • Weigh no more than the arms’ maximum rated capacity. The rating implies a uniform weight distribution; unevenly distributed loads reduce the capacity by up to 50%.
  • Be as evenly distributed on the arms as possible. Avoid tip loading and keep your loads centered.
  • Leave at least 6” of clearance between the top end and the bottom of the next arm (or 4” on the topmost level) to allow for safe forklift operation.
  • Sit straight on the arms without deflection (sagging or bending between the arms). If your loads are experiencing deflection, your number of arms may be insufficient.

Correct bracing of your cantilever racks is essential to ensure proper overall weight distribution. Your racks must feature an adequate amount of straight and X-braces depending on their overall height. Don’t hesitate to consult a bracing position guide.

Call Us for All Your Material Handling Needs

Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. produces a wide array of racking and shelving systems for warehouses and storage facilities. All our products are rated to pass the most stringent safety requirements.

Call our project managers at 800-589-7225 for a consultation and a free quote regarding your cantilever rack shelving requirements.